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Spanish House: 89 years of service

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – The Spanish House serves as an office, full-time residence for the superintendent, and provides temporary quarters for stranded pilots and passengers at the Colorado Springs Municipal Airport in 1942. Today it provides temporary lodging. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - The Spanish House provides temporary lodging for active and retired military personnel at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. It was built at the Colorado Springs Municipal Airport in 1929 before the establishment of Peterson Field May 6, 1942. (U.S. Air Force photo by Robb Lingley)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – The Colorado Springs Airport complex, in 1929, consisted of two short gravel runways with lights, two public hangers, and the Spanish House. First built in 1929, the Spanish House originally served as an office, full-time superintendent residence, and temporary lodging for stranded pilots and passengers. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – The Colorado Springs Airport complex, in 1929, consisted of two short gravel runways with lights, two public hangers, and the Spanish House. First built in 1929, the Spanish House originally served as an office, full-time superintendent residence, and temporary lodging for stranded pilots and passengers. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – The Spanish House serves as an office, full-time residence for the superintendent, and provides temporary quarters for stranded pilots and passengers at the Colorado Springs Municipal Airport in 1942. Today it provides temporary lodging. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – The Spanish House serves as an office, full-time residence for the superintendent, and provides temporary quarters for stranded pilots and passengers at the Colorado Springs Municipal Airport in 1942. Today it provides temporary lodging. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The Colorado Springs Airport complex, in 1929, consisted of two short gravel runways with lights, two public hangars, and the Spanish House. The Spanish House is a southwestern-style building built by the City of Colorado Springs for $8,000.

The Spanish House was originally an administrative office, caretaker's residence, and provided rooms for pilots and passengers grounded by inclement weather. It is currently used to house distinguished visitors by Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, Billeting Office to include such luminaries as retired Air Force Gen. William L. Shelton, Air Force Space Command commander, and retired Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Cody.

In a City Council meeting in January 1929, W. A. Rice, an expert mechanic, was named caretaker and field manager for the Colorado Springs Airport. The city paid him $125 per month to arrive at the airport by 8:30 a.m. and stay until dark. He was allowed to live on-site at the Spanish House where he served roughly a half dozen customers a month providing landing and take-off assistance, plane maintenance, and temporary food and lodging for stranded pilots and passengers.

The Spanish House measures 40 feet by 30 feet. The structure is stucco in the Spanish Colonial Revival Style that was different in architectural style. Presently, it’s in good condition with evidence of few external modifications.

“The interior of the building has been redone over time with a stucco fence constructed to enclose the back yard. Also, a well, now filled and covered, remains near the house,” said Gail Whalen, Peterson Air and Space Museum director.

When water was tested at the Spanish House it was found to have a lower fluoride content than the water in Colorado Springs. In time, this information got out to the public. People would then come out to the airport to watch the planes, and fill up their containers with the airport’s water. They preferred this water to their own because the lower fluoride content did not make one’s teeth as yellow as the city’s water.

W.T. Mitchell and Son built the first municipal terminal in 1940 for $19,875. The front center door, sidewalk and flagpole are perpendicular to the tip of Pikes Peak, said Whalen.

In 1941, the airport became a military airfield during the month’s preceding the United State’s entry into World War II.
Throughout the years the Spanish House went through several changes and modifications.

“In 1958, the Air Force started leasing the hangar from the city to use as a storage area for everything from spare or extra bunk bed parts for the dorms to museum artifacts,” said Whalen.

From 1967 through 1984, improvements to the hangar, such as more electrical outlets and repairs to the roof, were completed. In 1986, the interior of the building was completely refurbished by Peterson AFB contracting departments and became the museum.

The exterior of the hangar has never been altered other than side doors installed on the east and western ends. The original utility windows were changed with a newer utility style. The original sliding doors are still on the south end.

As a museum, the original terminal building has displays and exhibits depicting the history of Air Force and aviation in this area. It has aviation art, prisoners of war artifacts, historic uniforms and flight suits.

The Spanish House and museum are important to the history and architecture of American Aviation and was central to the development of the Colorado Springs military complex, particularly of the Air Force presence.

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